Business Review has launched a new campaign called #makeithappen. Every day, for a month, we will present 30 inspirational entrepreneurial stories of Romanians who turned passion, hobbies and knowledge into successful businesses. We will present the stories of entrepreneurial initiatives of all sizes in all economical fields, underlining the diversity and creativity of the local business environment. By starting this campaign, Business Review is strengthening its commitment to be the go-to source for inspiring stories of Romanian entrepreneurship.
Romania’s biggest organic food website, Vegis.ro, is a family business. Having already developed the website of Libris.ro, one of the biggest online book shops in the country, Mihai Bucuroiu (37) jumped at the opportunity to become an entrepreneur six years ago. Together with his wife Catalina (34), whose passion for and desire to work with organic products inspired the decision, he started an online business selling organic food. Today a market leader, Vegis.ro started with an EUR 5,000 investment and took three months to launch.
“We started from scratch and it took us three months from the moment we started to the launch. Including the time spent on obtaining the necessary documents and permits, as well as setting up the website,” Mihai explains.
The business started with an initial investment of EUR 5,000, an 80 sqm space, two computers and 1,000 products. In addition, throughout the first year of operating, more investment went towards replenishing the stock and advertising, and that meant an extra EUR 20,000 was added. After the first year, the business started bringing enough revenue to support itself and has kept on growing.
The fact that Romania’s organic food market is on the rise has been a major growth factor.”It is a growing market, where we see double digit increases every year. More and more Romanians give up processed food and those with synthetic ingredients in favour of organic or even vegan food. But to convince them to buy much more is needed than listing the product on the website. We provide advice, proof or origin and a full list of ingredients and of the qualities of products. This matters a lot, especially for a client who is faced with the variety of nature products,” he says.
Achieving online success
For Mihai, knowing the dos and dont’s of e-commerce is crucial when developing an online business. “When you work online, you must test things continuously and see what works best.
The success of an online campaign depends on so many factors, such as the copy, the tone of voice, the day it is launched, the month, even the weather and the socio-political climate,” Mihai explains.
“So the rule of thumb is that you have to test, to learn and adapt so that you can improve your performance continuously,” he adds. Also, perseverance is paramount. “Even the campaigns that do not have the results you expect, when packaged in another concept, they might give a completely different outcome,” he explains.
In 2017 Vegis.ro posted a 32 percent turnover increase to EUR 1,875,000 and strengthened its position as the leader of the online market of healthy, organic, vegan and natural supplements market. For this year, the company forecasts a double digit increase. “We expect to grow by at least 30 percent year-on-year,” Mihai says.
Making the health promise
Usually, buying organic is part of a larger commitment towards a healthy lifestyle. That is why, according to Mihai, selling organic products brings with it an extra responsibility. “When you develop a business selling health products, the client trusts you when they make a healthy choice for their lifestyle,” he explains.
“We believe it is important to offer our clients detailed information about the products, so that they can make informed decisions,” the Vegis.ro confounder says, who says his responsibility comes close to that of a pharmacist. “What is also important is for clients to know their bodies and preferences well,” he explains.
Supporting Romanian producers
According to the Vegis.ro co-founder, the selection process is always ongoing. “We receive offers to collaborate every week, but very few of them change into a collaboration. “This is because there are certain quality criteria that need to be met in order to have a very good collaboration. But we add new products monthly and we also delist producers and products that do not sell,” Mihai says.
Read another #Makeithappen story here: Exploring nature for a living. The business created out of love for traveling
Over 30 percent of the newly added products come from Romanian producers, small craft products makers or family businesses, the Vegis.ro cofounder says. Adding more Romanian products in their selection helps serve a double purpose, he explains. “Through the new collaborations with the Romanian producers we want to support our clients, who are increasingly interested in buying Romanian products”. Secondly, “we want to support Romanian businesses that make good quality health products, which face difficulties when it comes to listing products and bringing them close to the public.”
Expansion comes through market, online growth
According to the entrepreneur, his company’s growth potential is tied to the future expansion of the local organic products market and to the ever increasing popularity of online shopping. “First of, the growth of Romania’s organic products market is an opportunity we will be able to capitalise on,” he says. “Secondly, the share of internet users who shop online is still below the market level, but with a growth forecast, and this is yet another advantage,” he adds.
The company’s biggest and most recent investment went towards its new EUR 600,000 new warehouse, located in a central area in Brasov.
Read our other stories in the series: